Originally published in the San Diego Reader August, 1999
Sometime during late August, 1998, Roger Waters – the troubled genius behind Pink Floyd – entered the Brick Tavern on the corner of Columbia and B Street and created a stir. Not just because Roger Waters – one of the most important figures in rock history – was hanging with the locals, but also because there is question now as to whether it was Roger Waters at all.
“I became suspicious right after we met him,” says Howard Coven, guitarist for the Electric Waste Band. “He was on one of those television shows like Entertainment Tonight. It didn’t look like the same guy that we met at the Brick. That guy was really old. But I just figured the picture was a younger shot and forgot about it. But a couple of months ago, I saw him in concert in N.Y. They showed him on the big screen and I got a good look at his face. I really don’t think it was the same guy.”
Coven met Roger Waters after a friend told him that Waters was hanging at the Brick.
“Tom came in Tuesday morning, and said, ‘Guess who I hung out with last night? Roger Waters!’ I said, ‘No way!’ The next day at work, I saw Tom again and he said, ‘Guess who I was hanging out with again last night?’ I said, ‘No Way!’ again. Tom said if he shows up again, it’ll be a hat trick. I guess he was hanging out with a bartender he met there.
“So Wednesday, after work, I went down there to meet him. People were crowding around and asking him questions. We asked where Syd Barret was and he said, ‘Syd is in the funny house.’”
Every person with whom I spoke said that Waters (or whoever) knew everything about Pink Floyd. But the same people also said that the man at the Brick Tavern didn’t look anything like Roger Waters, that the man in the bar looked much older.
Tom Coin agrees that Waters’s (or whoever) story seemed straight, but thought it strange that somebody of his caliber would have worn the same clothes three days in a row or that he would crash at a bartender’s house who he just met. Still, they all had a great time hanging out.
“This one guy came up to [Waters] and said, ‘The first time I took acid, I listened to Dark Side of the Moon. I was fourteen years old.’
“Roger Waters replied, ‘You bloody bastard!’
“He told me he spent 15 million dollars trying to stop the remaining members of Pink Floyd from using the name. It cleaned him out pretty good.”
The bartender on duty – who wishes to remain anonymous – called her friend Bob Hamel (drummer for the San Diego-based band Soulcracker) to tip off that Roger Waters was in the bar. Hamel rallied his friends, Andy Allen and Jeff Card, and raced down to the Brick to meet him.
“The first thing I noticed was – this guy is old,” says Hamel. “This is not what Roger Waters should look like. . . . But when we were sitting with him in the Brick, the place was going crazy; people recognized him. They were saying, ‘Wow, you’re Roger Waters.’”
According to Hamel, Roger Waters had a bad tooth in the Pink Floyd music video, Live at Pompeii. The man at the Brick Tavern was missing that same tooth.
Waters (or whoever) autographed two bass guitars for the Brick Tavern that they now have hanging on the wall. Hamel tried to get him to sign his guitar too but Waters (or whoever) said, “Hell no. If I sign that guitar it’ll be worth 20 thousand dollars.”
I phoned the Brick Tavern and asked what Roger Waters had written on the two bass guitars. The man who answered said he would look and put me on hold. I waited for over five minutes until the phone clicked and disconnected. Thinking it was an accident, I redialed and this time a woman answered the phone.
“The owner doesn’t want to give that information out,” she explained.
“But they’re on the wall for everyone to see,” I argued. “What’s the problem?”
“Sorry,” she replied, and hung up.
Embittered, I drove down there. Neither autograph revealed anything controversial. They were both addressed to Billy the proprietor. One said, “Best regards and sincere wishes for a bright future,” and the other had a small drawing of a wall on it. He made no cheap puns between “Another Brick in the Wall” and the “Brick” Tavern.
The two things Jeff Card remembers about meeting Waters (or whoever), are that he didn’t pay for a drink all night, and this little gag Waters (or whoever) conducted with a couple of dollar bills.
“He took one of the bills and ripped it in half,” explains Card. “He wrote ‘Roger’ on one half and ‘Waters’ on the other. Then he ripped the second dollar bill in half and wrote, ‘The Wall,’ on the first half and on the other half he wrote, ’1998′. Then he gave each of us a half and said, ‘I know you’re always going to be a bunch of broke surfers. One day you guys are going to run into each other again, then you can match up the bills and buy yourselves a meal.’
Card believes it was Roger Waters but admits he hasn’t seen a picture of him in years.
Andy Allen says the stranger had the same Cockney accent as Waters, smokes Dunhills, and is an excellent magician.
“He pulled out a deck of cards, and handed it to me,” says Allen. “I shuffled it eleven times and dealt a Blackjack hand. He guessed the exact cards that I had dealt him. He did a whole bunch of other crazy card tricks. He was just plain cool, shooting pool and hanging out with us. Some asshole kept playing The Wall on the jukebox – Waters didn’t respond to it at all.”
Waters (or whoever) had missed a flight and was supposed to stay only one day, but ended up courting the bartender, and stayed three more days.
The bartender denies any romantic involvement, but admits he spent a night at her house. At first, she didn’t return my phone calls because she resented the intrusion, but I got her on the phone eventually.
“What pisses me off is that it’s getting blown way out of proportion,” she says angrily. “I had nothing to do with it. Everybody is going around and opening their mouths for me, so why should I open my mouth. Plus, I don’t think it’s the greatest thing to brag about. I believe it was Roger Waters and that’s all I need to believe. And even if it wasn’t him – which I know it is – It was a good fucking time.”
The bartender checked his background, read a rock history book, went on the internet, and watched the Live at Pompeii Video to reassure herself.
“Why would he lie? He didn’t get anything off me. I mean, yeah he slept at my house one night, but he had wads of money. The guy didn’t take anything from anybody. Why would he go around saying he’s Roger Waters if he wasn’t?”
Most everyone with whom I spoke said he was broke and unable to buy any rounds, which could be one motive. Another could be that he craved attention.
Still, most of the evidence suggests it was him. However one irksome detail remains unresolved: Fran Deseo, the publicist for Roger Waters, says that – according to his manager, Roger Waters was not in San Diego during late August 1998. In fact he wasn’t even in the country, he was in London. But when I tried to ask more questions she ended the conversation and hung up.
There’s something very weird about all this.
STORY UPDATE (Jan. 2000)
Right after I submitted the above story to the San Diego Reader, something interesting happened: I was bartending at the Blind Melon’s on a Blues Jam Tuesday. It was about 1:30 a.m. and the bar was empty except for three jammers who were breaking down the stage. It was then, when Nick Mason – the drummer for Pink Floyd – entered the bar.
Not that I knew it was Nick Mason at the time. From where I stood, he was just another kooky drunk looking for a place to close the night.
The musicians stood near the bar lamenting that they needed a 9-volt battery to test a piece of equipment. The man stumbled over, pulled a 9-volt battery out of his pocket, and offered it to the pleased gentlemen.
“Why do you carry a battery around?” they asked.
“I’m a musician too.” he answered
“Who do you play with?”
“I’m the drummer for Pink Floyd,” he responded
I cocked my head: Pink Floyd? My heart started racing; something odd was going on.
I started asking questions to see if it was truly him. He was convincing. Especially when he learned I was a music journalist because he became irate, calling me “the paparazzi” and saying we are all sleazy liars, as though he has been bitten by the press before.
“Fuck off,” I barked, “You don’t know me or what I’ve written.”
When I told him about the Roger Water’s impostor story he became incensed.
“Why do you think he was an impostor?” he jabbed.
“I’m not certain he is, but a lot of people that met him weren’t convinced and his publicist told me he wasn’t even in the country during the time of the sighting.”
“Of course a publicist is going to lie!” he responded. “That’s what they’re supposed to do. Rock stars are a secret society; we don’t tell anybody anything because you all twist it around. Roger and Billy [owner of the Brick] are friends. I saw Roger’s signature on the wall and that’s his signature – I know Roger’s signature. That week was all about sex and drugs and rock and roll. Of course they were going to keep it quiet.”
“Why are you telling me then?” I snarled, “I’m a member of the paparazzi. That’s a helluva secret society you got there.”
That night, when I got home, I scoured the web for Pink Floyd sites to look at photos. It was hard to tell because most of the photos were of Mason behind massive drum kits. I thought, wow, I probably just told Nick Mason – drummer for one of the most influential bands in the world, and one of my all time favorite bands – to fuck off.
I smiled then.
ANOTHER UPDATE (Sept. 2000)
I saw an interview with Nick Mason on a VH1 special. There is now no doubt in my mind that it was absolutely not him. He did not remotely look like the guy I met, and more importantly, his voice was all wrong. I will never forget the voice of the man in Blind Melon’s. He had a deep and resonating and raspy voice. A cross between Johnny Cash and Tom Waits.
Which begs the question, is there some sort of Pink Floyd Impostor ring running around San Diego?
[Author's notes: since the publication of this article, the Brick has since closed down, Syd Barret died, and the bar where I work is no longer called Blind Melon's].